30 November 2006

Coming soon to a knitting blog near you ...

So that you can plan your time during this busy holiday season, here are just some of things you can expect from me:

1. Pictures of Tim's vest. There will likely be a series - unblocked, blocking, and finished.
2. Pictures from my niece's wedding at the end of October. And possibly a link to a video clip!
3. A picture of one of the dishcloths I've been knitting over the past year (no, it didn't take me a year to knit one dishcloth - rather, I've been making the same pattern several times).
4. A picture of the item that I'm sending to my Knit the Classics Holiday Swap partner.
5. Various thrilling observations and other ramblings about Christmastime.
6. A post about going to see Patrick McDonnell (of "Mutts" fame) last night at a booksigning.
7. A few more birthday posts, as The Birthday Marathon takes us through until New Year's Eve.
8. Who knows?

In closing, here is a picture of Mr. Ed for you to enjoy. Because I love Mr. Ed, and once won a Mr. Ed sound-alike contest. Remember the episode where he had insomnia? And he looked at the clock, and it was 12 midnight? And he said, "Midniiight. Too early to hit the haaay, and too laate to eat it." That's my most favorite thing he ever said.

29 November 2006

Guess what time it is?

You realize, don't you, that it's been a full *11* days since there has been a birthday post? In the realm of the Birthday Marathon, that's a kinda like 11 dog years ...

Anyway, today's birthday is my sister Mary Ellen. She is the middle sister, and has always been the one who was able to get along with all of us. Whereas Nancy and I were often on the brink of inflicting bodily harm on one another, both of us got along just fine with Mary Ellen (well, at least as far as I know - they're only a year apart in age, and I'm a few years behind them, so maybe they nearly killed each other on a regular basis before I was born ...).

Mary Ellen has always been The Smart One in our family. She majored in chemistry in college, and worked at NIH right after she got married. While her kids were small, she was a full-time mom, but at a certain point, went back to school and got a master's degree in education. Then she taught high school chemistry for quite a few years. (And more importantly, was never brought up on assault charges, like I would be if I had to spend even one hour with a bunch of high-school kids!) A couple of years ago, she decided she'd had it with the administration and politics of the school, and got a job related to environmental monitoring of ground water. It's the kind of job that I am pretty sure she has always wanted to have, and I'm sure she does it better than most people ever think of doing their jobs.

Mary Ellen has a wicked sense of humor. People often miss it, because if she doesn't know you, she's pretty quiet (leading some people to think she is The Quiet One as well ... actually she is quieter than the rest of us, but that's not saying much). But let me assure you, she can give as good as she gets, and it's a lot of fun to share a funny story or joke with her. (Tim is particularly fond of her, as she is one of his best audiences.)

This past year has been a big one for her, as two of her four daughters got married, one had a baby, and another one got engaged. Where lots of other people would have been stressed out the whole time, she just helped when she could, butted out when she couldn't, and otherwise enjoyed each experience for what it was.

I know that I could call Mary Ellen any time, from anyplace in the universe, and she would help me, no matter what the problem was. We don't see each other as much as I'd like to, and we tend to play phone tag a lot, but when we are together, or finally get on the phone, we talk like we just saw each other the day before. She is just the best, and I would be truly lost without her.

Happy Birthday, Mary Ellen! (And always remember - just because you are The Mother of the Bride, it doesn't mean you get better chocolate than the rest of us!)

28 November 2006

Some answers to some questions

Hey kids, today I'm going to answer some readers' questions!

LMJ wrote that she enjoys reading my blog, and wonders if I have ever considered writing for money?

First of all, thank you for the compliment. Secondly, I really don't think it would be appropriate to write for money. Especially at this time of year, asking my readers to send money would be quite rude. But thanks for asking.

Carol, of Go Knit In Your Hat fame (and she is famous!), after reading my post about not getting to the last skein of Christmas Rock yarn at Stitches East (from Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock), asks: Hey, is that a subliminal request for some BBF green and red sock yarn?

Carol, Carol, Carol - don't you know me well enough to know that if I expected you to dye some Black Bunny green and red sock yarn just for me, I would just come out and say so??? Has our time together at Rosie's taught you nothing??? And why are there so many links in this section??

Jasmine requests that I hurry up with some pictures of the vest I knitted for Tim's birthday, even if the photography is not the best, and the lighting sucks.

I am hoping to put up some photos in the next day or so. Currently, that's as hurried as I can get! But I'm glad you want to see it, I just hope it's not anti-climactic ...

Mary has asked several questions:
1. What did we fix for Thanksgiving dinner, if we don't eat turkey?

Good question, Mary, and one I should have just answered when I wrote that we were now vegetarians (because almost everyone asks anyway!). We usually fix all of the same stuff for Thanksgiving dinner that we used to, but instead of putting the stuffing into a turkey, we stuff an acorn squash. And any gravy is mushroom gravy, rather than turkey/giblet gravy. (Even when I used to eat meat, I never liked giblet gravy. I don't even like the word "giblet" ...)

2. Will I please be sure to post a photo of the aforementioned vest when I've used the blocking wires on it?

I definitely will, hopefully next week sometime, after our weekend house guest leaves, and I have the guest room to use for blocking. The only reason you may not see a photo with the blocking wires would be if I get really aggravated trying to figure them out, and throw them in the trash in a frustrated rage. The benefit for all of you is that you won't have to hear the "colorful" language associated with such an act ...

3. Whenever I knit the Summer Braids pattern, please post a photo, so she can see how it looks knitted up.

I shall definitely do that. However, please do not hold your breath, since it may be a while before I get to that one.

The Wicked Witch of the East has not asked any questions that deserve answers. But I knew if I didn't include her, I'd hear about it.

I'll hear about it anyway ...

That's all, folks!

26 November 2006

One more thing from Stitches East ...

Here is one more thing that I bought during my trip to Stitches East at the beginning of the month. It's a felted llama ornament, and according to the woman who was selling it, one of her llamas named Kaleidoscope kindly provided the fur for it. The reason I couldn't show it to you before now was because it was one of Tim's birthday gifts. (Needless to say, the cats found it very interesting!)

I am hoping to finish the knitting of the front of his vest this evening. Then I'll have to wait to block the pieces and finish it. Tim decided that he wanted to paint a room in our house that we have been planning to fix up, into a combination computer/office/craft room. Up until now, it's been all of that, besides a I-don't-know-where-else-to-put-this room, and it was driving us both a little nuts. So we took out all of the things in the room, as well as took down things hung on the wall, and the curtains, and a lot of the stuff got put into the guest bedroom, which is where I would normally block things. The room is painted, and the guest room will need to be emptied out this weekend, since we are having an overnight guest on Saturday, so maybe by this time next week, I can finally get the front and the back blocked! I'm anxious to get it done, not just so I can finish the vest and Tim can be wearing it, but also so I can try my new blocking wires.

Since it will be a while until you see the finished masterpiece, I'll try to get pictures of the two pieces to show you - you know, like a teaser. 'Cause I'm sure my tens of readers - OK, all four of you - really want to have a sneak peek, right?

Back to work tomorrow. Ick. It's really a shame how work cuts into your day. And we had a great Thanksgiving, so I really don't want it to be over. But on the plus side, it is the beginning of Christmastime,** so it's not as bad as it could be. Except for the going back to work part ...

That's it for tonight, time to get myself organized for an evening of TV and knitting. :-)

**Christmastime is December 1 through January 6. Christmas Day falls in there, on the 25th of course. But it's all Christmastime, which is what makes it extra fun. I just thought you should know ...

24 November 2006

Odds and ends

A nice person thought of me ...

Guess what came in the mail the other day?

(Cat not included.)

I came home from a rather long and overall icky day at work on Tuesday, and there was a package waiting for me! Which is always exciting, but usually it's because I have sent away for something, and as far as I knew, I wasn't waiting on anything I'd ordered. But then I saw the return address, and realized it was from Suzie, who was the person who started the Knitters Tea Swap and Knitters Tea Swap 2! I had been one of the "co-hostesses," meaning I volunteered to help keep track of one group of swappers. And she sent me these goodies as a thank you! It was the best thing that could have happened after the day I'd had, and I was touched by her kindness. (Plus it gave Tim a chance to practice more using his digital camera, and the Garden Kitty a chance to pose for photos.) She sent a package of biscuits covered in dark chocolate (insert Homer Simpson drool here), a tin of Breakfast Assam black tea, and some sock yarn that is all kinds of neat colors. It was like Christmas!

The Gift That Can Now Be Named

Well, the yarn for the six rows I needed before I could finish Tim's birthday present didn't arrive until a week ago today, and his birthday was last Saturday, so he opened a gift bag containing one knitted back to a vest, and a nearly finished front. The yarn is alpaca, so it is incredibly soft, which makes it great to use for a project. At this point, the front is just about done. When it is, I'll have him take a picture with his new digital camera (another birthday present) of both pieces and post them here. (Wow, actual knitting on a knitting blog, who'da thunk it?) Then once it's been blocked and finished, I'll show all of you the finished product.

Turkey tendons

I got some really funny notes, and some comments about the turkey tendon story. Alas, my turkey-tendon-pulling days are behind me, as we have been vegetarian for the last ten years. But it was a fun part of our holidays, and I must admit that I miss it, though not enough to go back to eating meat.


We had a great day, very relaxing. It was dreary here, and rained on and off, though fortunately it stayed dry for the parade (unlike NYC where it poured during the Macy's parade). Though I will admit that I was surprised to learn that some people really dislike Thanksgiving, with a passion equal to those who dislike (or even hate) Christmas and other holidays. I was reading some online news, as well as some of the other knitting blogs, and learned this. I have always thought that Thanksgiving was one of the nicest holidays, because I think it's cozy. Who knew it was evil? Fortunately, since the commentaries were things I was reading, I could more easily ignore them and enjoy myself ...

37th Anniversary

Today is the 37th anniversary of my father's death. Even when it happened, it seemed like a cruel joke that someone who loved holidays like he did, would die on the Monday of Thanksgiving week. At the same time, even though I was just a kid, I knew it would be OK to keep enjoying the holidays as they came along from year to year. So every year during Thanksgiving week, I think of my dad, how I used to "help" him make the holiday dinner, and how much fun it was. Which for me is just another reason to like Thanksgiving.

23 November 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

21 November 2006

I've Got "Unique" for You!

Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away, and I thought I would share the following, in the spirit of things. Just to give you some background, in my previous job, I was responsible for a regular article on whatever topic struck me at the time. You know how the first rule of writing is that you should write about what you know? This is the first attempt, from November 2000, and I have to tell you, it's all true. Really.

The Sad Truth About Turkey Tendons
(Originally published in the Jeffline Forum, November 2000)

Working in an academic setting, you often hear about the difficulty researchers have in getting their work published. Often, the subject is the problem – if you haven’t been studying the “hot topic,” it can seem that no one cares what you have to say. A few weeks ago, a library patron told me that he was trying to find recent studies about Hepatitis A. He was finding many reports on Hepatitis B and especially Hepatitis C; but Hepatitis A seemed to have gone out of fashion.

I can appreciate this dilemma. When I first moved to Philadelphia, a notice in the Food Section of the Philadelphia Inquirer caught my eye. They asked readers to submit a brief story about unique family Thanksgiving traditions. Three stories would be published on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I knew I had something truly unique to send them.

My father, who grew up on a poultry farm, was the family expert on Thanksgiving turkey. The night before Thanksgiving was always a big night. After cleaning the turkey, it was time for my father’s special innovation: tendon pulling! According to my father, if you pulled the tendons out of drumsticks before cooking, it made them easier to eat. We got the pliers out, and everyone got ready to take their turn. At the end of the drumsticks, there are often small holes, with pinkish-white tips sticking out. Those are the tendons. You take the pliers, hold the drumstick tightly, and try to pull the tendons out. It’s fun for the entire family!

I have never met anyone else who even knew about turkey tendon pulling, so I decided this story would be a perfect candidate for the “unique” Thanksgiving tradition the Inquirer was seeking. I figured if my story wasn’t chosen, the others that were published would have to be really unusual. So imagine my extreme dismay when I opened the Food Section on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and read the winning entries.

Story #1: A woman whose mother had been in the hospital on Thanksgiving had taken a complete dinner to her so they could have their holiday meal together. Her mother died shortly afterwards. Every year, she continues to take an entire meal to that hospital for any of the nursing staff that has to work on the holiday.
Story #2: A couple who were in the military and stationed in Germany one Thanksgiving invited their German neighbors to celebrate with them.
Story #3 (supposedly the best) was about a woman whose son had the flu one year during the week of Thanksgiving. The night before, to cheer him up, they had baked special pumpkin cookies together. Even though the boy was now 20-something, he still made sure he could be home the night before Thanksgiving to bake cookies with his mother.

You can understand my dismay. These stories are heartwarming, feel-good stories; they may reflect lovely traditions. But am I the only one who doesn’t find them unique? My husband kindly said that maybe the Inquirer didn’t think my story was true, being somewhat unusual. Could I have invented something that good? Maybe it was too unique for the Inquirer; they probably felt it would be more appropriate for the New York Post; right under a headline like “Family of Five Fancies Festive Fowl Fun!”

I did learn a lesson. It applies as well to the researchers who write their research reports, only to find that no one is interested in the topic. I learned not to expect that editors would be interested in introducing the public to the finer points of turkey tendon pulling; all they want is something the readers would expect at Thanksgiving, featuring a mother, a sick kid, and a cookie recipe.

20 November 2006

Michael and Lola

True, this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving, but there are two birthdays to celebrate before that! (And you thought I was kidding when I said we called it The Birthday Marathon ...)

Shecky Greene's Favorite Comedian

That would be my brother-in-law, Michael, who lives in southern California, whose birthday is today. He is married to my oldest sister Nancy (whose birthday was at the beginning of this month). Michael has a regular job like most of us, but he is also a comedian. Really. A few years back, he took a class in stand-up comedy, and he and a group of friends from that class still get together, and/or appear at various clubs near where they live, to perform live comedy. Which is really pretty cool, when you think of it.

Though even before Michael studied comedy, he was already hilarious. Whenever the family gets together, we always look forward to how Michael will recreate it for us later. Often my sister Nancy is his "victim," which she takes with good humor ... and which the rest of us find hilarious.

Whenever Michael is around, you know you'll have a good time. It's nice to have someone in the family who makes you smile just to think of them.

Happy Birthday, Michael! We're glad you're there to make us laugh.

"The Boy's" Sister

Next up, my sister and Michael's granddaughter, Lola, who turns 3 on Tuesday. Lola lives with her parents, two sisters, and a brother in Tucson, Arizona. She is the third of four children, and two years younger than her older brother, who she refers to all the time as "The Boy" - instead of using his name!

We got to meet Lola for the first time a couple of weeks ago, when one of my nieces got married. Her mom and dad are great about sending us pictures of her, and craft projects she and her siblings have done, but meeting her in person was the best. We were in Baltimore, and the morning of the wedding, my nephew and his wife took the kids to the Inner Harbor to look around. Everyone got to choose something to buy for a souvenir, and Lola chose a neon-green, fuzzy stuffed monkey, who would hold on to her neck or waist when you put his velcro-ed hands and legs together. She was crazy about that monkey.

That evening, Lola and her siblings were flower girls and ringbearer in the wedding. So up the aisle came Lola, in her pretty white dress with the turquoise sash, her fancy shoes, her hair fixed with fancy barrettes ... and the monkey! It was so funny. Then while the wedding was actually happening, she sat on the step of the altar, to the side, playing with the monkey, and having a great time overall. Is that a great kid or what?

Happy Birthday, Lola! I hope we'll get to see you again before too long.

18 November 2006

You say it's your birthday ...

Today is the birthday of the Sexiest Man Alive ... Not YOU, George!

OK, let's try again.

We're gonna have a good time ...

On this date, one of the Funniest People on the Planet was born! Well, excuuuuuse me, Steve, but it's not you either!

I'm glad it's your birthday ...

Alright, I'll just start over.

On this day, in 1956, in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, the love of my life was born. My DH Tim is the youngest son, and the second-youngest child in his family, and as far as I'm concerned, the best of the whole group!

We met in college, and initially bonded over hatred of the same people. (My mother used to say that it was good we found each other, because it saved two other people. I tend to agree with her.) Tim has the same kind of sense of humor that I do, we share a lot of the same values and opinions, and all these years later, he is still the best friend I could ever imagine having. By now, we have found that we love a lot of the same people, too, so it's all evened out ...

Everyone who meets Tim, likes him, because he is one of those people who is so approachable and open-looking, that you feel comfortable right away. He is actually one of the few people I have met that actually fits the description of an Irish gentleman, from the old joke: he can tell you go to to hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip! As far as most people who know us are concerned, he is the "nice one." (I once overheard a neighbor telling another neighbor: "He's really nice. Her, not so much.")

I think I speak for not only myself, but our family and friends, when I say that there is no better husband, father to pets, uncle, Big Brother, sibling, in-law, boss, or friend than Tim.

And so, sweetie -

Happy birthday to you!

16 November 2006

Please explain ...

No knitting today, folks. But because it has been one of the absolute worst weeks ever at work, I thought that maybe some of you might be able to explain some things that continue to puzzle me.

1. Why the USDA is now going to refer to "hunger" as "food insecurity." Huh? Food insecurity implies that the corn being sold to consumers is worried that its husk will make it look fat. Whereas, hunger is an actual problem, and unfortunately a regular one for a lot of people.

2. Why anyone, anywhere, cares at all whether Tom and Katie get married, where they get married, who is invited, and if they are really who they say they are, or impostors from Pluto (I used Pluto since now they are claiming it's not a planet ... seemed appropriate).

3. Why people will stand on line for up to 3 days in order to buy a $600 Playstation 3. The news last night showed a) a student who was skipping an exam to be there ("Gee, I hope my professor doesn't see this, I'll be in trouble." Yeah, Cubby, and Mom and Dad aren't gonna be too pleased that the tuition money they are paying is helping you camp out at Best Buy); b) a woman who was supposed to have a Cesarean section, but postponed it so that she could stand in line to buy one for her soon to be born baby ("I think he'll just love it!" And really, what baby doesn't love a video game right out of the womb?), and a couple of self-described "gnarly dudes" (even I don't say that anymore!), who are going to sell theirs on E-bay for thousands (probably to start a retirement account, don't you think?).

At least the last two wonder boys mentioned will have enough money to avoid food insecurity.

4. Why men, upon seeing a woman walking around with no particular expression on her face, or even looking just annoyed, will say, "C'mon hon, give us a smile." Do they say that to other men? If so, do those other men open up a can of whoop ass and get it over with? Do they smile while they're doing it?

5. Why people think that if you have told them that something is marked as missing from the stacks in the library, they will get a different answer from one of your colleagues?

6. Why the "Nancy" comic strip is still around?

7. Why women say "panties" instead of just "underpants," or more generically, "underwear?" And what is the deal with adult women who tell you they'll be there as soon as they "go potty?" Ew. Call it the bathroom, rest room, toilet, whatever, but please spare me "potty." (And for the love of a small black dog named Pete, do not ever say to me, "If I don't go potty soon, I'll have an accident in my panties." Because I will kill you. Honestly.)

8. Why people think that if you have a name that is extremely Irish (or Irish-sounding), it is absolutely hi-larious to say, "Gee, you must be Italian!, " followed by a hearty guffaw. Then it's usually followed by, "I'll bet you can hold your liquor," or some other phrase that you would never say to anyone in any other ethnic group about a stereotype related to them.

9. Why people call their sons, "Jr." If you want the kid to be named for his father, can't you name him Joseph David and call him Joe, rather than naming him David Joseph Simpleton, Jr., and calling him Joe anyway? Where is the big difference? (And don't even get me started on people who have numbers after their names ...)

10. Why so many cars and trucks in the Philadelphia area are always crashing into houses? I have never, ever lived in a place where it happens on such a regular basis as it does around here. These are not necessarily people who slid on ice, or got a sudden flat tire - no, they are driving along (probably too fast), and Whoops! they ran into the old Johnson place ...

That's it for now. I need some wine ...

12 November 2006

How I Spent My Yarn Store Money**

Here are the goodies I bought at the Stitches East Marketplace last weekend.

Salsa, a mohair/wool blend, from Dancing Leaf Farm, located in Maryland. This yarn just found me when we stopped at the booth. In person, it's a gorgeous variegation of blues, greens, and light purples. It is amazingly soft, and though I originally bought it to use with some wool boucle that I have, to make a shawl, I've changed my mind about twenty times since then, so who knows what it will become ...

Next, I bought a kit to make this sweater, which is a slip stitch pattern. The display model, done in blacks and grays, was really beautiful, and the kit even included the pewter buttons.

The yarn in my kit is navy blue, medium blue, and light blue. The yarn is an alpaca/merino blend, and though I'm sure it's plenty warm, it's nice and light to the touch. It's all from SweaterKits, in Canada, and if I had a lot more money, there were about three other kits that really appealed to me. This one won out over the others for the amount I had to spend!

We had stopped at the Cabin Fever booth to look at some really cool handmade pins they had, depicting sheep, cats, and dogs. I am a pin whore, so I had to look at every one of them. I decided that I would think about whether or not I really wanted one, and go back if I did. Which was kind of stupid, because, duh, of course I wanted one! So I headed back to the booth and came home with this: While I was checking out, I noticed the woman who was helping me had on a really great red cardigan sweater, with cables on the back as well as on the front. I asked her where she had gotten the pattern, and she said it was one that her sister had written, and they had for sale. So I also bought the pattern:
This will be a challenge for me, since I've never knit something in one piece, but hopefully whenever I start it, I won't be too overwhelmed.

(SweaterKits and Cabin Fever are both from Canada. I tell you, the only thing that could have made it a trifecta was if they had a booth for Tim Horton's Donuts! But I digress.)

Our second to last stop was the sale bin at the Yarn Lady booth. I poked around a bit, and found this Sir Galli yarn.

It was really a bargain - 100% silk, and I got 5 balls of yarn for $19.00! No, I don't have a specific project in mind, but it was pretty and the price was right, so it now lives with my other knitting supplies in Philadelphia.

The Yarn Lady is in Laguna Hills, California, which is also where my sister Nancy lives. Apparently it's right near the Trader Joe's. So the next time we take a trip west, I can visit the yarn store while Nancy visits Trader Joe's! It's win-win for everyone involved.

The last thing I bought was a set of blocking wires. I have recently decided that I would like to have a set, and they were reasonably priced, so I was a happy camper.

The Gift That Cannot Be Named

I realize I haven't mentioned the birthday gift I'm knitting for Tim lately, so let me tell you that it is/was coming along nicely. Until the other day, when I was nearly finished with one of the color repeats - I needed 6 more rows worth of one color - and I ran out of yarn! Did I mention I only needed 6 rows worth? Fortunately, I called the place where I had ordered the yarn, and not only did they still have that color, they also still had the same dye lot. As soon as it arrives, I'll carry on with the project, and I think I still have a chance to get it all knitted by this coming Saturday. If not, he's getting what is done so far, and then I'll finish by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, if not sooner.

Six rows. Honestly.

**Yarn Store Money = the money I have made when I've helped out at Rosie's. I've been keeping it separate, and used some at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in May, and most of the rest at Stitches. It's like found money to me!

11 November 2006

Two-fer Saturday

Happy Veterans Day!


Happy Birthday, Annie!

Today is my niece Annie's birthday. She is the youngest daughter of my middle sister, and the youngest of all of the nieces and nephews on my side of the family. Here is a picture of her a few weeks ago, when her older sister Amanda got married.**

Annie is currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she is working on her Ph.D. degree. Which needless to say, means she is very smart! She is very determined, and I have no doubt that whatever she decides she wants to do in life, she will find a way to do it. She has probably travelled more than any of us, having spent a semester during college in Thailand, and having easier opportunities to travel around in Europe while living there.

When everyone was getting ready for her sister's wedding, someone posted a picture on our family website of the family group at Christmastime, with a caption that mentioned something to the effect that it showed the whole family. Annie then pointed out that although it was a nice picture, it was three years before she was born, so Hello!, it wasn't the whole family ...

She is a whole lot of fun, and has not only a great sense of humor, but like her sisters, an excellent appreciation of the absurd. I feel bad sometimes, because she was born right after we got married and moved away from home, so I missed a lot of her growing-up years. But fortunately we are a close family, and her sisters gave us good spin!

Annie, we miss you ... but enjoy your special day, and remember that no matter where you are, we love you very much!

**Re: Amanda's wedding. I have been waiting to collect some pictures to post before I wrote about it, so stay tuned if you are interested ...

08 November 2006

Book report for October

Well, not really. As it turns out, though I did read some things in October, I didn't actually finish any of the books I was hoping to get through (sounds like most of my knitting projects ...). I do have a good excuse though, since I decided that I had too many magazines stacked up that I hadn't looked at, so I worked my way through some of them.

I do have a magazine review for you, if you are interested. I bought a copy of the special issue of Interweave Knits, "Holiday Gifts." I bought it because, as mentioned in another post, I am a Holiday Fanatic, and also because I liked the cover. (Yes, sometimes you can tell a book [magazine] by its cover.)

Now keep in mind, that by the time this was available (October 17), I had already determined that any knitted gifts from me this year were going to be a) small, b) few, or c) non-existent. So I wasn't buying it to help me with this year's birthday/Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus gifts. I bought it because of the holiday theme, and because even though I have a bazillion patterns and books, I still like to look through these types of things for ideas for gifts. For instance, there are plenty of people who I will never ever make a sweater, or a pair of socks for, but it is possible that I would knit them a pear. Really.

In that respect, the issue succeeds very nicely. I often really enjoy the regular IK, because there are usually decent photos of the pieces, and the layout is generally easy to follow. That is also true here, and there are some articles that were worth reading: a book review, an article about embellishing your knitted work once it's complete, and one about the next step after you have mastered the basics of fair isle knitting. This last one had absolutely no current relevance to me, but that's not the point. (Not every article in every magazine can be only about cake and shiny things.)

Most of the projects were things I could see people for knitting for themselves or for others, whether as a holiday gift or not. There are plenty of quick things - the pears, sachets - as well as a couple of sweaters, and some scarves and hats. (I realize that for a lot of knitters, sweaters are "quick" knits. I am not one of them. I wouldn't worry about it unless you are looking to get a sweater from me between now and this Christmas.)

Was it absolutely necessary to publish this special issue? No, I'm sure we could have all survived without it. Was it worth $7.99? That's up to you. It was for me, though in the interest of full disclosure I must say that my husband bought it for me using his discount, so my copy was slightly less. But most pattern books are more than $7.99, and using the BMST (outlined previously), paying $7.99 for approximately 25 gift ideas and patterns, most if not all of them pleasant enough to see at a minimum, some that may actually get knitted, makes it a good deal.

So if you think you might be interested, go for it. If you can't find it at your local bookstore or magazine vendor, it still seems to be available directly from Interweave Knits, through their website, www.interweave.com.

Thank yous

Abigail and I would both like to thank you for your kind remarks about her picture and the birthday wishes you sent along. She said to tell you she had a very enjoyable birthday, though it would have been even more enjoyable had a certain gray kitten not been there ...

The Election

One word: Yay.

06 November 2006

Tuesday To-Do List

1. VOTE!
Tuesday, November 7 is Election Day here in the U.S. The only acceptable excuse for not voting is that you are not old enough. There are all kinds of civic organizations, party-affiliated groups, and other means to help you get to your polling place. In most places, the polls open very early and stay open into the early evening, past dinnertime even.

Ideally, you will vote for the same people that *I* want to win the election, and they will win, and I will be thrilled. I realize, however, that not everyone shares my beliefs, values, and opinions; but the important thing is to vote anyway! You may not think it will change anything, and God knows I've felt that way, but never so much to keep me from not adding my ballot to everyone else's. If nothing else, voting gives you the right to complain about whoever was elected, if your candidate doesn't win!

I can also tell you that voting does make a difference, maybe not all at once, but a little bit at at time. I worked for a while at the U.S. Senate, and let me tell you, when people voted and the makeup of the House and Senate changed, even slightly, there was a lot that accompanied those changes! Even if laws and policies didn't drastically change overnight, everyone woke up and got their butts into gear. And if they were surprised by the changes, they had only themselves to blame.

And lastly on the topic of voting, we should all vote because we CAN. I think Americans are too complacent about the right to vote. When you are casting your ballot, you are doing something that not everyone in the world, even today, ever has the opportunity to do in their lives. People have died for the right to vote, governments have been toppled when they tried to restrict or revoke voting rights for even a portion of their citizens.

So get thee to a polling place!

2. SPOT. What, you may ask, is SPOT, if not a cute little doggie in children's books? Well, SPOT is the Society for the Preservation of Thanksgiving. Visit the website, and try to take the message to heart. Because Thanksgiving is a real holiday, and should be celebrated and treated as such.

And if you are not going to celebrate holidays properly (i.e., as *I* think they should be celebrated), well then there probably is no hope for you anyway ...

3. Eat some chocolate.
(OK, this is on my to-do-list everyday.)

4. Visit Wendy Knits, and read about her plans to encourage people to contribute to Heifer International. Not everyone's cup of tea, but at least it makes you think ... and thinking often leads to action (like maybe deciding to VOTE!) ...

5. See #1.

05 November 2006

Abigail's birthday, and Stitches East

This is Abigail, today's birthday girl:

Yes, she really is as sweet as she looks. Today is her 14th birthday, and we are thrilled that she is still here to celebrate. We found her under a car on our street 14 years ago. We thought she was a solid gray kitten, that's how dirty she was! She was about 4 months old, and easily fit in the palm of your hand. She never really got very big, and has always remained kittenish.

However, don't let her sweet face and small size deceive you - she always gets her way! She was best buddies with our cat Hannah, who died a few years back. Hannah was a cream colored tabby, and about twice Abigail's size. But Abigail ran the show, with an iron paw (so to speak), make no mistake about it. And she still is the one in charge today. A couple of years ago, she had a very serious health crisis, and we didn't think she would survive, but I think she decided that we couldn't handle things on our own, and so she had to stick around!

She is not as shy as she used to be around other people, so now when we have company, she can actually get some attention from them, which she loves to soak up. She loves being sung to, and in wintertime, will cuddle under the covers with us in bed. Currently, our 8-month old kitten, Jetsam, is the bane of her existence. He has no manners, and thinks ambushing her is quite hi-larious. Every once in a while, she'll give us a look like, "Can't you please DO something about him??" But she does her best to keep all of us in line, and I'm pretty sure that most of the time, our behavior is acceptable. :-) I am totally convinced that she is one of the best cats ever to exist in the universe - past, present and future!

So - Happy Birthday, Abigail! All of us love you very much!

Stitches East

Yesterday, I went with a group of friends to the Marketplace at Stitches East, held this year in Baltimore.


I'm still processing the things I saw, and the whole experience. But talk about sensory overload! I never, ever saw so many knitting-related things in one place at one time. It was so much fun to be able to walk around and see for myself some things I'd only ever heard or read about. It was also neat to talk to some of the vendors that previously only existed as a website for me, as well as come across some that I'd never heard about before. I'm pretty sure that if I had gone again today, there would still be things that I missed yesterday, there was just so much to take in. Of course, I had to stop at the Rosie's booth, and say hi to everyone, and at the time we walked by, they were really busy, which was good to see.

I had the chance to stop by the booth where Blue Moon Fiber Arts had their Socks That Rock yarn on display. I've seen some references to it, and saw the customized colorway they had created for Wendy of Wendy Knits!, in honor of her cat, Lucy. The colors on display were amazing, and they had some sample socks and shawls displayed knit with their yarns, and those were absolutely beautiful. I was particularly taken with the colorway called Christmas Rock, and was going to treat myself to a skein to knit myself a pair of socks, but when I went to get the yarn, another person stepped in front of me and took the last skein - waaahh! Clearly, she did not recognize me as The Holiday Fanatic, and I'm sure she'll enjoy the yarn ... just not on the same level that I would ... :-)

I managed to buy some things that I either had been hoping to find, or knew that I was unlikely to see locally anytime soon, so that was lots of fun. And I came home with some of my Yarn Store Money left! (OK, not a lot, but still ...)

All of us had a good time - Eileen, who was nice enough to drive all of us (even though she doesn't knit!), found some fabric and buttons that she liked, for some sewing projects; her mom Pat, who makes up incredible patterns and then knits them faster than anyone I know, found some yarn she liked for some gifts, and the two of us were each thrilled to be able to buy blocking wires; Barb, who bought a couple of patterns, and a copy of Itty Bitty Hats, because she really enjoyed looking through my copy, and she has little ones to knit for; Jennifer, her daughter, who is a new knitter with a six-month old (I think) daughter, Julianna*; Julianna, who bought nothing but was wearing a hat knit by her grandmother Barb from Itty Bitty Hats - the upside down daisy, really cute; and Sharrie, who was my partner in crime for the day, and came home with some gorgeous yarns and a pattern or two.

And oh, when Sharrie and I were making our way to meet the others for lunch, we were walking along, and Sharrie wasn't watching where she was going, and nearly plowed down Kaffe Fassett! ("Knitting Icon Felled by Distracted Woman" - film at 11) Fortunately, she managed to get out of the way just in time. We decided that was 1 degree of separation ...

On top of all of it, I-95 actually cooperated both coming and going, with no traffic backups, no detours, just smooth sailing! (If you have ever for any reason travelled on I-95 for even three feet, you know that's akin to a miracle ...)

I can't wait to go again next year. It's in Baltimore again, so even if no one else is interested in going/able to go, I'll just hop on the train and head south for the day ... hm, maybe I'll get my train ticket this week ...

I'll report on my haul in a later post. Right now, it's time for birthday cake and presents!

*Julianna is the smiley-est baby I have ever seen!

01 November 2006

November 1st

Birthday time

Today is my sister Nancy's birthday. Nancy is the oldest in our family (Mary Ellen is next, then me), and so of course, she was the person who was the first to do a lot of things - first to go to college and graduate, first to get married, first to have a baby - you get the picture. When I was growing up, we spent an awful lot of time arguing with each other, mainly because (to quote my mother), Nancy was "an agitator," and I had an extremely quick temper (still do, though I control it *much* better now!). Like most people, once both of us got older, and became more like friends, we got along a lot better.

Of the three of us, Nancy is definitely the most glamorous. She always knew what the latest fashion and looks were, how to put on makeup so not to look a) freakish, b) clownish, or c) like an aging Kabuki actor. Until she moved out of the house, she was the one who cut all of our hair and would fix it for us anytime there was a special occasion. Like the whole family, she liked animals. She knew how to sew, and was one of those people who could see something in a store window, and then recreate it herself. She has always had lots of friends, and, needless to say, is a lot of fun. She and her husband Michael have two children (Chad and Lauren, they of earlier birthday messages), as well as four granchildren, all of whom are wonderful people, and a lot of fun themselves.

I had the chance to visit with Nancy a little bit this past weekend, when one of our nieces got married in Baltimore. It was great to get to see her (she lives in southern California), though since there was so much going on, there wasn't much time to really catch up. And it made me kind of sad because she lives so far away, and I don't get to see her as often as I see some of my other family, who live closer. But we talk on the phone nearly every weekend, and both of us check in to a family website regularly, so as the old telephone company ad used to say, "It's the next best thing to being there."

Anyway, I just wanted anyone reading this to know that Nancy is the best that a sister could be, even if I pick on her mercilessly (I can't be bothered to pick on people I dislike). I know that I could call her anytime, and whatever she could do, she would do it, if I needed her help. I know that we will never become the kind of sisters who lose touch, or stop speaking over something neither of us can remember ten years later. And most importantly, I know that she loves me as much as I love her. You can't ask for more from a sister than that.

So Happy Birthday, Nancy! Have an extra glass of wine to celebrate!

All Saints' Day

Today is also All Saints' Day. When we were all in school, and lived someplace where we attended Catholic school, we were always jealous because Nancy got her birthday as a day off (we did too, but it wasn't our birthday!).

I always liked All Saints' Day, because it was so incredibly broad in scope. It pleased me to think that saints that were really obscure had at least one day when they were just as important as the other saints. (I always pictured it as a day when they each had their own birthday cake and the angels sang to them. Which was a perfectly logical belief when you are 8 years old. Not so much once you hit 30 ...) I mean, we all know the "famous" saints, like St. Patrick, St. Joseph, St. Theresa, etc., but how often do we think of St. Ubald? Or St. Bibiana (whose feast day was on my mother's birthday, so she took it as her confirmation name)? Or St. Fiacra? Well, come All Saints' Day, they had their chance to celebrate, and to be appreciated. Plus, it was a day of honor for any saints we may not even know about, but they still got their cake and song! Who could not like All Saints' Day?

And speaking of saints, I was trying to locate the patron saint of knitters. I couldn't come across anything definitive, since there were no specific listings under "knitting," or "knitters." I did learn that St. Blaise (he of the blessing of the throats) is the patron saint of wool workers. But in the end, I think we have to go with St. Clare of Assisi, who is listed as the patron saint of embroiderers and needleworkers, among other things.

Which reminds me of a joke that I think every kid who ever attended Catholic school knew in first or second grade. I'll share it here, since Blogger won't let me upload the really cool images I found for All Saints' Day and St. Clare of Assisi. Anyway, here goes:

First kid: Did you hear about the big fight in heaven?
Second kid: No, what happened?
First kid: St. Peter called St. Francis a sissy!
[ba dump bump]

I know, I should have quit while I was ahead ...